On What I Do Not Write

I am currently working on two other posts that I have not had the time to write during the week, but in both cases I am fighting an instinct that I often seem to have when I write, and I thought perhaps I might exorcise this particular impulse if I took some time to reflect on it. The impulse is this: whenever write, I feel compelled to say first what I will not write, to surround what I will write in prologues and prefaces, in preambles and disclaimers, in afterwords and codas, in introductions and appendices. I always find myself saying, “Here is the context that you need to understand what I will write,” or “Here is the list of cautions and provisos that should condition what I will soon tell you,” or “Here are the directions and avenues that I have not yet had time to explore,” or, in every case, “Here are the reasons why what I write will fail to say and be what I intend.”

This impulse, given freedom, is paralysis. It is the expression of an anxiety that springs from confronting the impossibility of writing. It dwells on what is absolutely true but what nevertheless must be ignored: the fact that what I write, once it is written and has passed away from me, is always both far more and far less than what I can know or intend. It trembles before the choice to write that knows what writing is, before the choice that is a “nevertheless”, an “even so”, a “despite of everything”.  Anything I write is necessarily written in the shadow of this choice.

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